Profile: Matt Ritter '01
“Stage has always been my comfort zone.”
When Matt Ritter first moved to Los Angeles, fraternity brother Adam Hunter helped him land gigs all over town, including in a tougher neighborhood. — “It was just not my audience for telling stories. I did a bit about the show The Bachelor and I don’t think anybody there even knew what that was.”
Matt Ritter’s career at a high-powered law firm gave him wealth and stability, and made his parents proud.
So, naturally, he quit to become a standup comic.
“It was very scary,” he says. “All of the sudden there was zero structure to my day and no guaranteed check coming in every week. I was still living in a ridiculously expensive apartment in the West Village, and that’s when it dawned on me that if I wanted to do this, I was going to have to make a lot of changes and sacrifices.”
Ritter ’01 says he enjoyed doing comedy through college, but never thought of it seriously as a career until he was finishing up law school. His solution was to spend his days practicing law and his nights practicing comedy.
After four years, he realized he had something to prove to himself, so he quit his day job to work standup full time.
“Stage has always been my comfort zone,” he says. “It’s almost like you’ve reached another level of clarity. Your synapses are firing at a higher rate, and when you get offstage you are still high. By the same token, a bad show feels a hundred times worse.”
A year ago, Ritter moved to Los Angeles, where fraternity brother Adam Hunter introduced him to clubs and promoters and helped him get gigs. Since then he’s been in a Sears commercial and earned his first television credit.
His management degree, with concentrations in finance and marketing, has helped him develop a strategy of setting goals and structuring his career, which he’s sure gives him a leg up on the competition.
“I’m shocked by how many comedians don’t take the career/business side of the work seriously,” he says.
Since moving to LA, Ritter says he’s happier than he thought he’d be because every day is a step closer to a goal, with momentum provided by the many projects he’s involved with.
“I just shot a pilot that I created, produced and am starring in,” he says. The webseries, called The Bottom Rung, can be seen on http://www.bitterlawyer.com "It's. a comedy about the world of document review, which is basically a sweatshop for lawyers."
Ritter continues: “I recently founded a comedy troupe called Comedians-at-Law with some other former lawyers-turned-comedians. We are touring the country performing for law schools, law firms and bar associations. Also, I am writing for a prominent pop culture site called Crushable.com.”
But being funny isn’t easy, and the daily routine is more challenging than he realized.
“It’s very hard,” he says. “People tell you it’s hard, but you can’t really understand it until you are there. When people say it’s a grind, it is. And now I know what a grind is. It means every day has to be a hustle. You can’t take days off. There are no vacations when you are a comedian. When I was a lawyer, every couple of months it was time for a vacation. Now it’s like I’m not entitled to a vacation until I achieve more of my goal.”